Bedspacers (Joey Gosiengfiao, 1980)
The late great Joey Gosiengfiao is more than a director of campy movies, he is also a very fascinating filmmaker with an eye for structures compounded with a sincere heart for his art (which translates very well into his films). There's no denying that the man has both wit and humor (as anybody who has seen Temptation Island (1981), with its shipwrecked characters and their palpable lust for both flesh and food, would agree). There's something more to Gosiengfiao though than the glamor poses of his bikini-clad beauties and the witty one-liners thrown with elitist stance.
Bedspacers is Gosiengfiao's favorite work because it allowed him to explore the wealth of themes that compounded college life (which he has fond memories of). The film juggles the stories of several university students --- Nadia (a sublime performance by Alma Moreno), who gathers funds for her schooling by prostituting herself; Margot (Rio Locsin), a social climber who parades around in posh parties to integrate herself in that exclusive social stratum; Dindo (Mark Gil), a student-thespian who is struggling with his stage role; and a lass (Amy Austria) plucked from the province to study in the city and balances the the needs of her boyfriend and her very conservative ways; and their respective partners (played by Al Tantay, the dazzling Deborah Sun, and Orestes Ojeda).
It is of course, like all of Gosiengfiao's films, has scenes overflowing with camp, like the three-way cat fight that leads to Margot's wet blouse being torn into bits; or the several episodes of all-male or all-female bonding in their respective dormitories; or when Nadia is slapped in the rain; or when Deborah Sun's professor steps on the roses given to her; or that sequence wherein Margot sneaks her way through a posh party (where she mistakenly refers to chicken as Peking duck) with her facade of elitist snobbery.
What impresses me is Gosiengfiao's very structural approach to the film, both thematically and visually, and sometimes all at once. The film is easily dismissable because of its juvenile settings and its preachy demeanor, but there's a hint of brilliance in Gosiengfiao's filmmaking here. The term bedspacers refers to those tenants (mostly students or young workers) who merely rent beds in overcramped dormitories, the purpose of course is to save money. It is that concept of proximity that astounds me: these tenants literally sleep a few inches from each other; share a communal bathroom; the male and female dormitories divided by a narrow alleyway (the bedspacers can literally see what's happening in the other dormitory).
Gosiengfiao breaks these perceived proximities. Education is supposedly the equalizing factor in a democratic nation. In Bedspacers, Gosiengfiao attacks the institution for its elitism and hypocrisy --- he, of course, takes the side of the students and unfolds their dilemmas with sympathy. More specifically, Gosiengfiao dissects his scenes with detailed reverence to enunciate severance and emotional distance: observe how he separates his characters during key sequences --- in that tender scene wherein Al Tantay's character discovers Nadia's whoring (Gosiengfiao uses a division in the wall to literally separate the two characters); or when Amy Austria's character tells her boyfriend she is pregnant (we only see the characters faces in the circular mirrors of the bar, there's a literal space in between the two lovers); or when Margot disowns her mother (we see Margot's face through the mirror, while the mother is shown in a different space); or when Lindo professes his adoration for his professor (the two are separated by a bookshelf, and later by that distance made by their ladders).
There's a visual and thematic elegance to Gosiengfiao's filmmaking that gets overshadowed by the labels we have given the man (King of Camp, etc.). True, he defers to directors Lino Brocka or Ishmael Bernal in tackling issues of supposed import and relevance (such as poverty or politics), but in that overcrowded niche of commercial filmmaking (which is most probably the reason why his praised are received belatedly) wherein he worked comfortably and at ease (with producers and other filmmakers), he has excelled and made works that transcend the limitations of profit-making. I've only seen a fraction of Gosiengfiao's ouvre, but Bedspacers definitely is one of his most accomplished works.